West Ham v Sunderland preview

Victory against Sunderland this weekend will be tough but vital for West Ham if they are to avoid relegation from the Premier League

The opposition

Sunderland are almost certain to be playing their football in the Premier League next season and for that 23-goal Darren Bent must take a lot of the credit.

The former Tottenham striker has once again proved how deadly he can be and without his goals, Sunderland would be in a far worse position.

The Black Cats have 38 points, 11 more than third-bottom Hull and will come to Upton Park full of confidence after turning over Spurs last weekend.

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When selected Kenwyne Jones is a good foil for Bent, wins a lot of headers and chips with his fair share of goals, while the work-rate and team effort of Lee Cattermole is key to making the north east club tick.

The manager

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Steve Bruce took over from Ricky Sbragia in the summer and has a mixed first season at the Stadium of Light.

The Newcastle-born former Manchester United captain always makes sure his teams are hungry and competitive and the signing of Cattermole in the off-season was key in achieving that.

Bruce has had a variety of jobs since turning his hand to management and will be keen to end the season well to build momentum for the next campaign, where he will hope his side can break into the top 10.

Form guide

West Ham home: WWLLL.

Sunderland away: LDLDL.

West Ham overall: LLLLD.

Sunderland overall: DWDLW.

Recent meetings

West Ham picked up a creditable 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light in late October, but would have been disappointed not to collect all three points.

Carlton Cole and Guillermo Franco had given the Hammers a two-goal lead, but goals from Andy Reid and Kieran Richardson rescued a point for the Black Cats.

West Ham beat Sunderland 2-0 in April last year when goals from Junior Stanislas and James Tomkins secured the points, while a Valon Behrami strike won the game for the Hammers in the north east.

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